Yes, You Can Train Yourself To Be More Creative. Here’s How.

People often think that creativity is something you’re born with or you’re not. “My sister is the creative one in the family; she goes to art school,” you might hear an accountant say. Advertising agencies even label their departments as such: project managers deal directly with clients, while “creatives” are given the space to write and direct campaigns.

It turns out that narrative is flawed. A new book, Building Your Creativity: Tools For Having Ideas And Bringing Them To Be, argues that creativity is hardly a fixed trait. Rather, like any other skill, creativity is something you can train yourself to cultivate with the right kind of practice. In fact, it’s more of a science than an art.

I talked to one of the book’s authors, Esteban Gast, to find out what that kind of training looks like. Gast teaches a course on creativity at an unexpected place: the University of Illinois’ College of Engineering. “Creativity and engineering have been separated culturally, but at their core, they’re both systematic disciplines,” he says. “People are shocked to find that there are multiple studies that show creativity can be enhanced. You can teach yourself to be creative just as you can teach yourself any skill, be that piano or long division.”

According to Gast, this process requires more than just “believing in yourself” — a common refrain in many of the creativity self-help guides out there. His team’s approach involves tangible techniques and specific action plans, which his book brings to life for readers through a series of hands-on exercises.

Gast is quick to point out that, like piano and long division, building creativity requires patience and hours of practice. So reading all the way to the end of this blog post won’t make you instantly more creative. But it will give you seven things you can start doing now, whether you’re an accountant or an art student, to bring more creativity into your life.

Cannes 2016 Shingerview: Deirdre McGlashan, MediaCom

“When we stop being called digital people, we are actually going to have digital empowered marketing. It is the same thing about women and minorities – it is all about diverse marketing.

During Cannes Lions this past June, I spent some time with Deirdre McGlashan, Global Chief Digital Officer at MediaCom. Deirdre is the first Chief Digital Officer at MediaCom and has tremendous experience on worldwide assignments and in key markets, helping clients to navigate a world that is increasingly more global and digital.

Watch as we discuss diversity in marketing, the infancy of programmatic, and the best piece of career advice she’s been given.

What Andy Murray Teaches Agencies About Client Partnerships

The dream team is back. With coach Ivan Lendl once again by his side, Andy Murray was crowned Wimbledon champion for the second time this Sunday.

Despite parting from Murray in 2014, Lendl had been drafted in to turbocharge the tournament alongside Murray’s permanent coach Jamie Delgado. It’s anticipated Lendl will then assume his previous part-time arrangement of working with the tennis star for 20 to 25 weeks a year.

Agencies, which are themselves expert support teams for brands, have much to learn from Murray’s exceptionally high standards and lively approach to maintaining his own coaching squad.

With agencies under pressure to perform with greater speed, agility and commercial acumen, while achieving award-winning levels of creativity and innovation, traditional client-agency relationships no longer work. Instead of being left to it for weeks on end until they crack the brief, agencies need to become challengers and evolve their offerings at breakneck speed to ensure clients receive agile creativity.

This is because clients are struggling to keep pace with what consumers want. Brand lifespans have contracted from 61 years in 1959 to just 18 years today, according to Yale University’s Richard Foster. Dot-coms are planning their tenure around 10 years at most.

A recent study from creative agency Southpaw also found some of the biggest grocery brands of recent times, including Cadbury’s, Birds Eye and Heinz, have become on average 10% less relevant to consumers in the past five years. This figure might seem small, but its impact on global revenue will be colossal.

This is something that can be seen in every sector. We only need look at BHS and Austin Reed to understand what can happen to even the most monolithic retailers if they don’t keep up with the times.

The Creative Staff of the Future

The New Way Will Require New Skills
The rules of marketing were etched in stone long ago.

Rule 1: “Mass communications – ads – are the way to define a brand’s character and create an emotional connection with consumers.”

Rule 2: “Promotions and shopper messaging are used only to compel consumers to act in a way that brings that brand into their lives.”

But it’s 2016, and people have more control over when and how they receive brand messages. This makes consumer interaction with brands rare and precious. Consumers also have higher expectations of brands. They want transparency, convenience and relevant engagement – not a sales pitch.

Things have changed a lot, but there are big opportunities for the brands that get the next step right. It starts with smashing those stone tablets and bringing down the walls that have separated marketing disciplines. And then it’s time to rebuild, in a new way.

7 Ways To Manage Stress Creatively

Stress is a huge problem for us all. Here’s what I’ve learned and apply to manage stress using my creativity.

As a child I enjoyed art, photography, music and writing. High school was the peak of my musical interest, and I put most of my creative energy into playing guitar, and writing songs. Once I graduated from high school, like most people, I felt an immense pressure to choose what I wanted to do for a living. So I enrolled in a journalism program reasonably convenient to commute to from my parent’s home. After taking all these prerequisites, once I finally got into Journalism 1, I realized that writing articles & news in this format was not right for me. My parents are very conservative working class people with the idea that you must work to pay the bills, and it doesn’t matter what kind of work that is. Perhaps it was teenage hormones at play, or just normal growing pains, but I decided to rebel against the idea that I had to get a “job” that I dislike, just to pay the bills. (Funny here I am more than 10 years later in a job which I would think was perfect back then, and I don’t exactly love it…. but I digress.) Fast forward 1 bachelors degree in Film Production later, plus almost 10 years of experience in media production. Here are 7 ways to manage stress using creativity.

How To Manage The Hours Working An Office 9-5 Job When You’re A Creativity Junkie At Heart

A lot of people come to New York City to become something, to get their names known and become famous. The city is thriving off of creative minds, and that’s why they call it “The City That Never Sleeps.” For me, it has always been hard to grasp that there are a number of people who venture to the city to land their dream jobs in the corporate world. It’s hard for me to fathom what it would be like to work in a corporate office confined to a desk all day long. And sure, there are a LOT of corporate environments that incorporate a desired cultural aspect, like Google or Uber.

We’ve all seen the perks of working at Google. I mean a nap room? Really? If only I could land a job there, I would probably never actually work. You could find me in the nap room in a deep slumber, getting my full eight hours. I would sleep through lunch breaks and ever so delicately drop grapes into my mouth like the real dainty princess that I am.

For a lot of young New Yorkers, and even experienced city dwellers, it’s understandable that jobs like that are hard to come across. Usually, you have to know someone, or work your way up in the rankings from an internship. But what happens when you’re 25 and finally realizing what is it you want to pursue your career in? Do you have the support to quit working for money and partake in an unpaid internship to build up your resume? Is someone going to pay your overpriced rent and ConEd or PSEG bills while you spend your weekdays on coffee runs hoping to catch your big break? (Coffee runs are actually highly unlikely in internships these days, as most internships are great learning experiences and an incredible way to get your foot in the door somewhere).

The majority of us don’t have this luxury, which is why I spend my time at my office sitting at my desk, finding alternative ways to flow my creative juices, like writing this article for example. I’m part of the lucky few that are able to get away with doing a lot of personal things at work. I work in Human Resources and spend majority of my day on Instagram, internally cracking up over funny dog memes and relationship posts, and then direct messaging the posts to my friends to give them a good laugh at 1:30 p.m. on a Tuesday.

When I turned 25, I went through what society likes to call a “quarter-life crisis.” It exists, I assure you. I wanted to go to college for Fine Arts, and had the opportunity to attend some top-notch schools (that I couldn’t ever afford). But I chose to get my education in a business and communications related field from FIT, which is actually a great and very affordable school.

Three-and-a-half years after graduating, I found myself at yet another dead end job, spending eight or nine hours a day watching the time pass. I started to think of what I actually wanted to do in life. What would make me happy? If you’re a friend of mine, you know that all I want to do in life is be a mom. But you can’t get paid for that type of full-time career, and you can’t apply for it either.

Being a mom is a life goal. So at the age of 25, I had to reevaluate what I was doing and begin to set a plan and answer the bigger questions: What is my purpose? How do I see myself spending the rest of my life?

Marching Your Firm to the Right Cadence

Defining, maintaining, and refining a cadence is key to keeping a company “accountable and authentic to everyone it touches,” according to the book “Think Big, Act Bigger” by Jeffrey Hayzlett. He also discusses how cadence is “your company’s river—its culture and systems.” The better it flows within the company, “the more it flows through anyone it touches, from employees to vendors to customers.”

Establishing a successful operating pace not only makes your employees feel more comfortable and productive but also gives clients an additional level of assurance. Secure in the knowledge that a creative firm will turn around work within a certain amount of time, they are more likely to rely on that firm as a creative partner.

Internal cadence must come before external; once your team is in a good place in regard to workflow and expectations, you can proceed to educate clients on how timely decision-making will affect the delivery.

Set clear expectations

At the outset, sit down with your team and the client, and explain the plan ahead so it is clear to everyone involved. You may experience some pushback from employees concerned that a rigid schedule may hamper their creative efforts, or force them to rush their process. Discuss those concerns, as well as benchmarks and goals that are dependent on following this process. Pacing in a reasonable manner will take potential delays into account.

Everybody’s buy-in is necessary. The next step is the creation of an internal timeline for projects, with checks and balances in place before the client sees anything. How much time can the team comfortably devote to ideation? How long does it usually take to receive feedback from a client, and incorporate those notes into the planning? Working collaboratively to answer these questions will help frame a suitable rhythm for the team.